30 Days: Favorite Protagonist

This is one of a series called “30 Days of Video Games“, an exercise on daily writing.
Follow the link for the full list.

We’ve given the bad guys their day, let’s talk about our heroes.  For as much as I lauded the role of villains in video games, its the heroes that we adore and remember and sometimes want to be like.  And what a bevy to choose from – video games have given us some of our most iconic heroes through the years: LinkMarioSonicCommander Sheppard, Master Chief, Gordon Freeman, Samus Aran, Guybrush Threepwood, Mega Man… oh, the list goes on and on.  But as I said, the best protagonists have the best antagonists, so there can be no other answer than Tassadar, Executor of the Protoss.

It’s odd to me that I should choose Tassadar over so many of the other fine examples above.  It’s equally stunning, I’m sure, to my readers (all two of you) that Link isn’t the go-to choice here.  But the issue with the Zelda games is that Link is, for the most part, a shell for the player.  TFG answered “me” for this entry, and I think that’s a great answer – many RPGs will present to you the skills, the abilities, the tao of the character, but it’s up to you to decide the personality.  Even the excellently written & voice acted Commander Sheppard bears some resemblance to the player’s own view of morality, though Sheppard is probably a close second or third in this category.

Tassadar wins out for me because the player never shapes his outlook, never changes his destiny, and is ultimately driven by the executor towards Starcraft’s ending, setting a rich world for Brood Wars and Starcraft 2 where perhaps the finest example of nobility in the universe hangs ever-present as a backdrop to the dirty dealings of Terran, Protoss and Zerg alike.  Within a few playthroughs of the Brood War campaign, the constant “En Taro Tassadar” became to ring a little hollow to me – at first I thought I was just annoyed at the self-reference, but I realized that the Protoss were no more noble than their enemies and without Tassadar to serve as their conscience, they too would fall in line with the corrupt Terrans and insane Queen of Blades.

That’s another reason why I liked Tassadar as a protagonist over Jim Raynor.  Raynor’s a great character, a timeless archetype of tough guy/loner with the heartbreak turned enemy in Kerrigan.  However, I liked that Tassadar and Kerrigan never had a personal relationship, and that Tassadar’s triumph really had nothing to do with Kerrigan.  If anything, his act of sacrifice helped propel Kerrigan into her role as the “Queen of Blades” – but stopping Kerrigan wasn’t Tassadar’s role.  In relation to each other, Starcraft’s protagonist and antagonist were on disparate arcs, only coming within contact as diametrically opposed forces.

Starcraft would have had a terrible ending if Raynor was the one pulling the sacrifice move – trying to pull too many heartstrings at once.  Raynor’s broken heart is just another force in the world, not the focus.  The story of Starcraft, the war, the fight for control of the galaxy, these are concepts too big to be ruled by a guy like Raynor; his effect on the world is supplemental.  However, his heartbreak does cause ripples within the world they’ve built, and Tassadar’s sacrifice & Kerrigan’s ascension just add to his continued suffering, allowing him to effect the world without making the story about Jim Raynor.  That’s good story telling there, and probably Blizzard’s best writing.

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